Designation: Danger or Delight?

Issues surrounding designated funds have faced churches, organizations, and denominations for many years. Having pastored for thirty-five years, I remember the tendency of many people to want to designate their tithes and offerings. My response to them usually would be, “If it is your money, you have every right to designate. However, Scripture teaches in Malachi that we are to bring the tithes into the storehouse.” I’ve always been of the opinion that the church is the place where the tithe is given and so the church decides how those monies are to be spent in ministry and missions.

With that being said, we have to ask why there is a constant call for designation. We hear this call in the local church as people want to designate their funds for specific ministries, projects, or areas of personal interest. On the denominational level we constantly hear people wanting to designate their funds for various reasons.

Sometimes this is to express discontent with an agency or entity, a person, or a particular ministry. Designation is a negative expression of emphasis.

Sometimes it is a desire to focus or refocus in a particular area. Some people feel that some ministries have been favored or stressed too long or too much. Therefore, there is a desire to focus more positively in a new or different area.

One of the constant refrains we hear is a wish to avoid bureaucracy or administrative cost. Sometimes people think that they can designate their money and avoid bureaucratic overhead. That is almost laughable. Every organization must have administrative oversight, and, yes, even some bureaucratic structure in order to see the ministry or mission accomplished. All organizations have administration, and must!

While most people feel the pull of desiring to designate or direct their giving (and I admit that I have felt the same pull in my ministry and life), please remember the following:

Designation invites anarchy—it ultimately leads to a breakdown in not only a system, but also in effectiveness. Let me ask this. Pastors, do you want your church members to designate their tithes and offerings? Do you really wish for them to direct the funding of your church through designation of their funds?

Designation is often based on ignorance, not focus. When people really begin to recognize the total ministry that is involved, they normally reconsider their desire to designate. Many people in the church and in the denomination are simply unaware of the many great things that are happening.

For example, we constantly hear people say that they want more to go to “missions.” What do I say to that? I say, “Amen!” At the same time, are they saying that they do not want to support colleges which are helping frame a biblical worldview in a generation that is the least evangelized in our history? Are they saying that they do not want to support the work of theological education in which 18,000 students are being prepared for Gospel ministry? Certainly not!

Do you know what our International Mission Board and North American Mission Board would look like without the sound, theological training of church planters and missionaries? Do you know what our churches would look like if there was no theological education available for their pastors and ministers? These are serious questions that must be answered.

When we truly evaluate and study the reality of ministry, in most cases we come away happy with a unified and collaborative way of doing ministry. We usually end up saying Cooperative Program and cooperative ministry is truly the best way to see missions and evangelism occur nationally and internationally.

So am I calling for people to not question or seek a change in the system? Absolutely not! If you want to change the system, get in it and become a supportive and even vocal proponent of the needed change. For far too long we have had people making comments and calls for change and then manifest very little commitment to that task in a cooperative and collaborative way. Please seriously consider being a part of the solution, not just pointing out the problems that we may have. God bless as you become a part of this needed change so that we might be even more effective and efficient in the days ahead.

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